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Taking London – Latham on the offensive in the Square Mile with hire of third private equity partner from CC

As our Taking Manhattan cover feature underlines, the Los Angeles-bred Latham & Watkins continues to make major inroads in the key global hubs of New York and increasingly London. Making the point again, the global giant has today (18 February), announced the recruitment of high-profile Clifford Chance (CC) partner Kem Ihenacho, the third private equity partner to join Latham’s City arm from CC in the last 12 months.

The move follows the departure of former CC global head of private equity David Walker in April last year and another CC partner Tom Evans in October.

Ihenacho was the co-head of CC’s Africa practice and a key relationship partner for the Carlyle Group. Walker was also a key Carlyle contact and the loss of Ihenacho will raise fresh questions over CC’s grip on the client. Former Latham associate, Jeffrey Ferguson, is general counsel at Carlyle and sits on the management board.

Latham recently advised Carlyle on the acquisitions of Addison Lee and Chesapeake Packaging. The Addison Lee deal was led by Michael Bond, who handles the firm’s relationship with Carlyle in London. The US law firm’s private equity clients also include KKR, EQT, Advent International, BC Partners, Charterhouse, Nordic Capital and PAI Partners.

Despite CC’s historic reputation as Europe’s top private equity practice there is no doubt that such predatory recruitment has impacted on its competitive position in the leveraged buyout market, with US advisers increasingly on the offensive in London.

‘We are now the only firm in the UK market to have top-ranked bank and bond practices and are building a market-leading private equity team to capitalise on this strength. Kem is a rising star with a great reputation and a broad range of experience that makes him an excellent addition to our private equity team,’ said Nick Cline (pictured), managing partner of Latham’s London office.

‘Having market-leading capability on both sides of the Atlantic stands us apart from many of our competitors. Kem’s arrival further strengthens our reputation in the European PE market,’ added Dan Lennon, global chair of the firm’s corporate department.

The firm has already been bulking up its private equity practice this year, with the hire of former Weil, Gotshal & Manges funds partner Nick Benson in January. The London office now has 250 fee-earners and 60 partners.

For more analysis on US firms moving into the City private equity market, see Back at the gate: US invaders raise fresh questions over private equity status of CC and Linklaters